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Y'all-itics: If you were ever going to fight your property taxes, this is the year to do it

Our Y'all-itics podcast team sat down with an appraisal expert who said he believes that half of all homes in Texas are overvalued by the state

DALLAS — If you’re still in horror over your property appraisal and you’re debating whether to protest, try this exercise. 

Look at your house. 

Then look at your neighbor’s house. 

One of the state’s leading experts on property appraisals and taxes says one of these two homes is overvalued.

“In any year, the way the system is set up, I believe about 50 percent of houses are overvalued if you just look at it,” Chandler Crouch said on this week's episode of Y’all-itics.

Chandler Crouch is the founder and principal broker of Chandler Crouch Realtors. He’s one of the state’s foremost experts on protesting your property value. So he knows Texas real estate. And Crouch expects a record number of property value protests this year, as appraisal figures have exploded across the state, easily jumping double digits in Texas’ major cities.

"Your odds of winning this year are higher than ever before just because they’re trying to churn through the numbers," said Crouch. "They want to make you happy and get you out of their office so that they can go to the next person.”

While homeowners decide whether they want to fight the appraisal district, property taxes have already become a battle in the race for Texas Governor.

Democratic nominee Beto O’Rourke told us he was on the road campaigning when his wife recently opened their appraisal.

“She said it was a pretty steep increase,” O’Rourke said on Y’all-itics. “ And I'm looking forward to sitting down with her and seeing it. And, in fact, sitting down is what I hear from so many people as they're advising their fellow Texans to do before they open their appraisals.”

O’Rourke says the property valuations are a real shock to the system at a time when inflation is above eight percent nationally. 

Y’all-itics also extended an invitation to Governor Greg Abbott to join this podcast and discuss this matter, but did not hear back by the time this week's episode was published.

For his part, O’Rourke is not missing a beat in making property taxes a major campaign issue.

“We are going to be taxing and pricing people out of their homes, and that's not theoretical,” the Democrat told us. “ I'm meeting these people across the state of Texas who say I cannot afford to stay in this home.”

O’Rourke’s proposals to lower the property tax burden on Texans include requiring the disclosure of the sales price of a home or piece of property. While listing brokers have to report a sales price to the MLS, it does not have to be disclosed to state government, including local appraisal districts. The gubernatorial candidate says doing so would ensure corporate and commercial property owners are paying their fair share in taxes.

Beyond property taxes, O'Rourke also said the state could also expand Medicaid, which he says would bring in billions and lessen the burden on property taxes to carry its budgets. O’Rourke even thinks the revenue generated from any potential marijuana legalization could be used to help taxpayers across the state.

The Democrat also added that one major issue is there simply not being enough homes in Texas. To that end, he said the state could help spur new construction.

“We need to look at how the state can leverage tax credits at the state level to encourage more development in our communities, especially those communities that are seeing the most significant demand for housing and just aren't able to put together the supply,” said O’Rourke. “There are also some state mandates that prevent local communities from working with inclusionary zoning laws, for example, that would allow affordable housing to become a bigger part of the mix in in some communities.”

But let's get back to what you can do right now. 

Should you do decide to fight your appraisal this year, Chandler Crouch said the burden of proof is always on the appraisal district. And he said property owners can either play defense or go on the offensive.

If you’re playing defense, you need to ask the appraisal district for the evidence that they're going to use against you. Crouch said they have to give it to you; in fact, that evidence might even already be available through the appraisal district’s online portal.

Here's an example Crouch shared with us: “If [the appraisal district is] using a house that's on a golf course, or it has a view of a creek or something, and your house doesn't -- it might be in the same subdivision, but their algorithm and their data didn’t alert them to that -- that house actually shouldn't be used as a comparison. The house on the golf course probably sold at a level much higher than yours.”

Going on offense would mean doing the work yourself and finding homes that have recently sold in your neighborhood. The goal, Crouch said, is to find locations more comparable to your property than the examples that might be used by the appraisal district. When you’re pulling those comps, Crouch said you can go all the way back to January 1 of the previous year through March 31st of the current year -- so it’s a lengthy range.

If it all seems overwhelming, there are some easy initial steps you can take just to get started. Crouch stressed that, first, if you haven’t taken your homestead exemption yet, you should do that immediately. That, he said, is the very first step to lowering your property tax bill in Texas. 

And some districts, he said, may have already taken other steps to make your job easier.

“Check the Central Appraisal District website for your county and see if there's an online portal that you can log into and utilize,” he said. “ That's going to simplify your life a ton.”

Be sure to listen to this episode of Y’all-itics to learn more about legislation Crouch that is helping lawmakers craft in Austin as part of an attempt to find a permanent solution to property tax hikes -- something that’s remained elusive over the years. Also in this week's episode, Beto O’Rourke also talks about his recent COVID-19 diagnosis and how it might affect his campaign -- and even how many debates he’d like to have with Governor Abbott. Cheers!

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